After coming to Saudi Arabia on fake passports during Hajj, many Rohingya have been held in detention centres for years. The Saudi government is planning to forcibly repatriate them. The kingdom has no refugee plan nor signed the 1951 Refugee Convention.
Riyadh (AsiaNews) – Saudi Arabia has been forcibly holding hundreds of ethnic Muslim Rohingya in various detention centres after they had fled western Myanmar because of persecution. Now Saudi authorities want to forcibly send them to Bangladesh.
According to Middle East Eye, the planned deportations come after Saudi Arabia ordered Bangladesh to take back more than a hundred Rohingya who came to the kingdom on Bangladeshi passports.
Human rights groups fear that once back in Bangladesh, they will be repatriated to Myanmar where they risk more persecution or end up in inhumane refugee camps.
Many of the Rohingya came to Saudi Arabia in 2011 on the Hajj (pilgrimage) to Makkah using fake passports.
More recently, many fled violence in Myanmar at the hands of Buddhist majority –at least 700,000 from Rakhine State since 2016 – hoping to find a job and rebuild a life in the leading Sunni nation.
In the past few months, Saudi authorities have begun cracking down on illegal workers and immigrants without permits, including Rohingya.
Rohingya detainees say they can prove their identities with their old Myanmar ID cards, not those of Bangladesh, as evidence of their status as political refugees.
However, few Rohingya have faith in the repatriation process and many fear more violence. “What will we do when we got to Bangladesh? We have no other choice but to kill ourselves,” said one man.
In view of the situation, various groups have appealed to the Saudi government to stop the forced repatriations to Bangladesh.
The latter began a few days after Saudi leaders, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, met with Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina during a visit to Riyadh in mid-October.
On this occasion, the crown prince praised Bangladesh’s development plan and its response to the Rohingya crisis. He also called for closer military cooperation between the two countries.
Many Rohingyas came to Saudi Arabia years ago with fake passports of various Asian nations, like Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal and Pakistan, hoping to rebuild their lives and leave persecution and violence behind them.
That dream ended when they were locked up in Jeddah’s Shumaisi detention centre following raids by Saudi Immigration Department.
In prison, they endure abuses and violence, their mobile phones seized. Eyewitnesses cited by Middle East Eye said some were punched in the chest and experienced other forms of torture to exhort confessions.
Rohingya immigrants also have to sign a statement saying that they had “full mental health” to consent to repatriation to Bangladesh.
So far, neither the Bangladesh Foreign Ministry nor the Bangladesh ambassador to Saudi Arabia (nor the Saudi authorities) have addressed the matter.
Saudi Arabia has not plan for refugees and asylum seekers and has not signed the 1951 Refugee Convention, which grants them the right to work, travel documents and freedom of movement.